Monday, September 07, 2009


Luke 18:15-17

People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

Here’s a passage that has been debated far longer than I have been alive and it has been debated throughout my life in ministry. This is the question that I have heard debated over and over again: “What does Jesus mean by receiving the kingdom of God like a little child?” And, “What are people supposed to do to become like little children so they will be able to receive the kingdom like a little child?”

The key here is context, context, context. At the end of Luke 17 Jesus began teaching about the kingdom of God when he was speaking to a Pharisee and said, “The kingdom does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” The context is the kingdom of God and the ensuing episodes all speak of the nature of the kingdom and how it comes to a person, or, how a person enters it. In the case of this Pharisee, Jesus says that the coming of the kingdom is something that takes place within a person. It is not something the Pharisees will be able to discern because it is not a visible event!

The parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8) speaks about continuing in prayer and not giving up. The kingdom is a kingdom in which the king deals justly with his people. But at the end of this episode Jesus says, "When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Again, the kingdom of God is a matter of faith, not a matter of visible events.

The Pharisee and the tax collector came to the temple to pray (Luke 18:9-14). The Pharisee was self-righteous. Apparently his belief matched that of the majority of the Pharisees. They believed that they deserved to be in the kingdom because they kept all the laws and the teachings of the elders. They believed they were already righteous. They believed that entering the kingdom was a matter of keeping laws and rules; visible actions. But the Pharisee did not go home justified!

The episode of Jesus and the babies and little children is also a kingdom parable. Who will enter it? Those who receive! The babies were brought by their parents. The little children were brought by their parents. The little ones received the blessing of the king of the kingdom. They had no good deeds or law keeping to recommend them for citizenship in the kingdom. They had no righteousness to offer in exchange for the blessing. There was no visible change in their lives. But they had received the grace and mercy of the king. There was nothing they could do to receive his blessing. It was merely bestowed upon them! They were blessed simply by his mercy and grace.

Who will enter the kingdom? Those who are blessed by the king. Those who are recipients of his grace and mercy. Those who do not try to offer their own good deeds or their own righteousness. Those who do not think they deserve to enter the kingdom. Those who enter the kingdom are those who receive the blessing of grace and mercy.


At 9:56 AM, Blogger Anne of The House said...

"But Jesus called the children to Him and said ..."
I notice that he first, personally, called the children to Himself. Then he told the disciples to let them come and not hinder them. Do we sometimes think that Christ does not call children personally?

And why on earth would the disciples rebuke the parents from bringing babies? I think because this special touch He would give would be personal and only received by the one child. Not perceived or understood by the adults standing by. And adults like to witness things. We like to 'testify.' We like to be a part of things.

I find it interesting that these hinderers were not Pharisees as one might expect.. but disciples! The very ones who should be helping, facilitating the work of Christ in His kingdom. Was it a problem of contextualizing what The Lord was willing to do? And based on what? Their experiences? Their cultural? Did they assume that adults were more important than children?

I think it's wonderful that Jesus used the kids as an example. What a humbling thing for the disciples... for everyone... to be shown childlike faith in such a pointed way. Jesus let them make a scene and then used it to make Himself the center of the work.

What things do we assume about the kind of people He would help? If Jesus would regard little kids, who are rather clueless and have nothing but runny noses and curiosity to bring to Him, than we adults can know that we don't have to be anything more. But more than that. We disciples, who are doing the work of the ministry, should not hinder people who need... people who have nothing but problems and runny noses... these are who He wants. These are who He calls.

Who might I have overlooked today?


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